- Alvin Carlos
- January 21, 2024
Are you looking for a financial planner in the DC – Northern Virginia – Montgomery County area? Entrusting someone with your finances is a big decision. But what do you do if there are so many options, or you’re not sure where to start? This article aims to take the guesswork out of your advisor search. Our research below also aims to pull back the veil on how much financial advisors charge.
Table of contents
How did we search for the best financial planners in Washington, DC?
First and foremost, we significantly narrowed down the field by only consideringfee-only financial plannerswho are required to act in your best interest.
A fee-only financial planner is afinancial advisorwho does not earn commissions and offers transparent pricing. Unlike other financial advisors, a fee-only financial planner is not incentivized to sell you insurance or annuities that may not be good for you. Fee-only financial planners act as fiduciaries, meaning they have sworn an oath to act in the client’s best interest. They’re like a doctor for your finances.
This criterion effectively filters out “financial advisors” who are not fiduciaries, like insurance or annuity agents.
The two websites we used to find fee-only financial planners were theNational Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)andXY Planning Network.
Second, only fee-only financial planners that have a CFP® designation made it into our list. The CFP® designation is the most well-recognized financial planning designation and requires extensive training and experience.
The other four criteria we used to find the best financial planners in Washington, DC were:
- They have a website.That’s pretty basic, but we actually found one that does not have a website.
- They have at least one blog post in 2023.This indicates to us that they value educating the public and giving back to the DC community.
- They serve young/mid-career professionals (30s, 40s). This is a sign that they are willing to make financial planning accessible to everyone, not just retirees or the ultra-rich.
- They haveat least 3 years of experienceas a financial planner.
We added bonus points for fee-only Washington, DC financial planners who:
- Have another financial planner or associate as a team member.We believe that working in a team setting greatly enhances the collective knowledge and experience that a financial planning firm can give to a client.
- Have a CFA designation.Chartered Financial Analystprofessionals have undergone intensive training specifically on investments.
- Have an AFC® or ChFC® designation.These two designations bring additional expertise. For example, an Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) is trained on money management behaviors and the emotional aspects of money.
- Are BIPOC-aware.Meaning they have minority representation in their team or in their marketing materials, or they explicitly state they work with BIPOCs. BIPOC stands for black, indigenous, and people of color.
Unlike other rankings, we purposely excluded the amount of assets under management. We felt like the amount of assets a firm has does not have anything to do with the quality of their service.
We did the search as if District Capital did not exist, and we needed to find a financial planner for our loved ones. That said, our firm ended up being in the Top 10 list because it met all our required and nice-to-have criteria!
All in all, we closely examined about 43 fee-only financial planning firms in the Washington, DC area.
Top financial planners in Washington, DC - 2024
|Year 1 Minimum - Individual
|Year 1 Minimum - Couples
|Mainstreet Financial Planning
|District Capital Management
|Dream Financial Planning
|2050 Wealth Partners
|Pavlov Financial Planning
|North Financial Advisors
|Jason Howell Company
Who are the best 10 financial planners in Washington, DC for 2024?
Here are the results! They are arranged from the most affordable to the least affordable, based on their first year’s fees. I included a blurb from their website and a brief note about their lead financial planner(s). Note that this is not an exhaustive list of local financial planners and it reflects my personal opinion per our criteria above.
1) District Capital Management – Washington, DC
“District Capital Management is a fee-only financial planning firm. We are passionate about helping professionals in their 30s and 40s in the tech, government, non-profit, and small business owner world. We have four financial advisors in our team who are committed to delivering top-tier financial guidance at an affordable cost. As a virtual firm, we work with clients nationwide but primarily serve clients in Washington D.C., Virginia, and Maryland.”
Alvin Carlos, CFP®, CFA, is the managing partner of District Capital Management. He has been helping professionals take control of their finances since 2011.
2) MainStreet Financial Planning – Washington, DC
“MainStreet Financial Planning, Inc., is a national fee-only, project-based, financial planning firm. There is no minimum of assets or income required to work with our financial planners, as we don’t manage investment accounts or sell financial products. Our entire focus is to help our clients build a path to Financial Independence.”
MainStreet Financial Planning has a diverse set of clients and their team is growing.
3) Dream Financial Planning – Reston, VA
“I serve as an Independent, Fiduciary, Fee-Only advisor offering Financial Planning and Investment Management. I started Dream Financial Planning to help two communities that have typically been underserved by the financial planning community, young people and minorities.”
Lamar Watson, CFP® has been in the financial planning industry for 15+ years.
4) Jason Howell Company – Fairfax, VA
“Jason Howell Company is a fiduciary wealth management firm built on a simple premise:your financial life is important. As a company based in the suburbs of Washington, DC, we have a great respect for the thousands of people locally who work in policy, politics or who run businesses. You are the kind of people who understand that getting things done is a combination of science, art and heart. We believe that too.”
Founder Jason Howell is a former US Congressional candidate, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Certified Private Wealth Adviser™, Chartered SRI Counsellor™ and active alumnus of George Mason University’s School of Business.
5) Illumint – Washington, DC
“Illumint offers fee-only financial planning specifically for young couples and families. The company’s founder & CEO, Kevin Mahoney, CFP®, helps his peers navigate stressful financial decisions such as repaying student loans, buying a house, and investing savings.”
Kevin works mainly with millennial couples, and his firm’s website contains a diverse set of clients.
6) 2050 Wealth Partners – Washington, DC
“We provide ongoing wealth management and comprehensive financial planning services. We help our clients build, grow, and protect wealth with upfront planning, ongoing support, and accountability. We work with our clients 100% virtually.”
2050 Wealth Partners is a recent entity resulting from the merger of Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP® of Your Greatest Contribution and Lazetta Rainey Braxton, MBA, CFP® of Financial Fountains.
>> Ready to maximize your finances? Schedule your free discovery call today with one of fee-only financial planners.
7) Pavlov Financial Planning – Arlington, VA
“We are an independent fiduciary financial planning firm dedicated to helping globally mobile professionals and multi-national families navigate the complexities of cross-border living. We serve families with multiple citizenships, professionals who have moved around internationally for work, including those with equity compensation, foreign-born individuals in the US, and entrepreneurs with businesses in the US or abroad.”
Hui-chin Chen, CFP® and Sefa Mawuli, CFP® specialize in helping Americans working abroad and green card/visa holders working in the U.S. with their unique financial situations.
8) North Financial Advisors – Washington, DC
“North Financial Advisors is a boutique financial planning firm with offices in Washington, DC (Metro Center) and San Diego, CA (Gaslamp) and serving clients virtually in between. We provide fixed fee financial planning advice with no minimums to women and those who are planning to start businesses.”
North Financial Advisors is run by Cady North, CFP®. I met Cady during a Financial Planning Day in the Northern Virginia/DC area, where many CFPs give free advice to the DC community.
9) Citrine Capital – San Francisco, CA
“Citrine Capital is a fee-only wealth management firm committed to helping startup founders, entrepreneurs, and tech professionals conserve and create wealth. We accomplish this by working with our clients to organize their finances, manage investments, define and prioritize goals, plan for retirement and other major life events, reach financial independence, protect loved ones, and mitigate taxes.”
Ryan S. Cole, CFP® is the managing director of Citrine Capital. He specializes inequity compensation. taxation, and financial independence.
10)Entelechy – Bethesda, MD
“Entelechy is a flat fee-only financial life planning & investment management company. Our mission is to help people use money as a tool to realize life goals and reach their full potential. We call this integration of financial planning, investment management, and tax planning & preparation Financial Life Management, and charge one flat annual fee for this service that isn’t arbitrarily tied to the value of your investment portfolio or net worth.”
Ben Brown, CFP®, EA is the firm’s founder. In case you’re curious (I was), Entelechy describes the inner strength directing life and growth to become all one is capable of being.
How is District Capital different from other Financial Planners in Washington, DC?
Like the ten best financial planners in DC that made it into our top 10, District Capital is also a fiduciary and has CFP®, AFC® and ChFC® professionals on our team. We have a modern website and frequently give free financial tips through ourwritten and video blogs. We believe in comprehensive financial planning and serve professionals and entrepreneurs in their 30s and 40s. We have been in business since 2013.
District Capital’s three uniques are:
1)Strong investment team.We have two CFA charterholders in our firm; the CFA designation is considered the gold standard in investing. Two of our co-founders manage a multi-million-dollar pension/foundation portfolio and meet regularly with investment analysts across the nation. Our ears are very close to the ground when it comes to investment opportunities and risks. We’re also well-versed in socially responsible investing funds.
2) Modern and dynamic platform. We use Monday.com to power our detailed, comprehensive financial plans. With this platform, our clients are able to easily keep track of their progress and communicate with us on a regular basis.
3) We are a majority-minority firm.More than half of our clients are minorities. This was recognized by the Financial Planning Association when it awarded our Managing Partner and Financial Planner Alvin Carlos theFinancial Planning Association Retreat 2018 Diversity Scholarship. Many of our team members are military spouses, who have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation due to their highly mobile life.
Our pricing is competitive. We’re not the cheapest – we’re not willing to discount the value we provide. We’re not the most expensive – we have found an efficient and highly effective way of creating and delivering plans with the help of modern tech platforms and collective knowledge.
How does our DC financial advisor ranking differ from others?
There are 3 popular best financial advisor lists in the DC area.
TheWashingtonian’s Best Financial Adviser in DC rankingis perhaps the most well-known one. Their list is produced by doing a survey to people working in the DC financial industry. While the Washingtonian is a highly regarded publication, there are three limitations to their survey:
- It includes non-fiduciary financial advisers (those who do not have to act in the client’s best interest).
- They don’t actively disseminate the survey to members of the Financial Planning Association of Washington, DC (FPA National Capital Area). Thus, the survey may not be that representative.
- It’s by nomination. So those who know more people have a higher chance of getting more nominated. It’s almost a popularity contest.
One thing I noticed was the lack of diversity among their top 12 financial advisers.
SmartAsset also produces atop financial advisor in Washington, DC list. One major feature of this survey is its sole focus on the amount of assets under the firm’s management. Their list also only selects advisors that are registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This leaves out scores of other DC-based registered investment advisors that are registered not with the SEC but with the District of Columbia.
Lastly,Yelp has a list of best financial planners in the DC area, along with client reviews. While Yelp is my go-to review site for restaurants, Yelp customer reviews of financial advisors come with a big caveat. Virginia, Maryland, and many other states currently prohibit financial planners from asking clients to leave reviews and from publishing testimonials.
How much does a financial planner in Washington, DC cost?
Based on our research, the cost of a fee-only financial planner in the DC area ranges all the way from $2,400 to $45,000 per year! Financial planning is a highly fragmented industry, that’s why we see a wide variation in fees.
Fiduciary advisors from the XYPN Planning Network typically charge $3,100 to $9,600 per year.
Fees are usually billed quarterly or monthly.
While asset-based pricing usually ranges from 0.50% to 1% of assets under management, most of the fee-only DC financial planners we looked at do not charge this way.
To save you time and energy, here is thefee schedule of the 10 best financial plannersin DC according to our list, including how District Capital stacks up. We included the ten factors we used in developing the lis
How do I find a good local financial advisor in DC?
Finding a trustworthy financial planner can be hard. Less than 10% of financial advisors in the country are required to act in your best interest. Here are some organizations that we recommend to help you find a fee-only fiduciary financial planner in Washington, DC.
- National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA): a non-profit association of fee-only financial planners.
- XY Planning Network: a newer organization of fee-only financial advisors who generally work with Generation X and Generation Y clients.
- CFP Board: is the entity that administers the CFP® designation. However, not all CFP® professionals are fee-only financial advisors so make sure to ask.
- Fee-Only Network: all of the financial advisors listed here are fee-only and are fiduciaries, meaning that they act in your best interest.
During your research stage, scroll through financial advisor websites and read their blogs. See if they are working with clients who are similar to you. If they are, then there is a good chance that they will be a good fit for you.
The most important questions to ask a DC Financial Planner
Once you have identified two or three financial planners that resonate with you, set up a discovery call with them. This is typically free. During the exploratory call, you may want to ask various questions, including the below:
1) Are you a fiduciary?
2) How do you get paid?
3) What are your credentials & experience with my demographic?
4) How good are you at investing?
You’ll want to confirm that they are afiduciary financial planner, so she or he will act in your best interest. You’ll want to work with a DC financial planner with transparent pricing and no commissions on products recommended. Look for financial planners with either a CFP®, AFC®, or ChFC® designation. They have undergone rigorous training. Ask about their typical client demographic, and whether they have encountered the goals and concerns you are sharing.
Ask how strong their investment skills and experience are. Having an optimized investment portfolio is a key component of building your wealth.
In the end, do you feel like you’re getting a good vibe from your conversation? Is the financial planner asking you relevant questions and expressing interest in your financial life? You’ll be sharing personal information with this planner, which may include sensitive topics like fertility and past major financial mistakes. So it is important that you feel comfortable working with this person.
For more details on the questions, you should ask a financial advisor, watch our video on8 Questions to Ask a Potential Financial Advisor.
What’s the difference between a financial planner and a financial advisor?
A financial planner is a professional who helps individuals and families reach their life goals by making smarter and more holistic financial decisions. A good financial planner will give you advice on various aspects of your financial situation including taxes, retirement, investments, saving for your child’s college, etc. A financial advisor is usually associated with those who manage investment accounts of high-net-worth people. There is not much difference between the terms; they are often used interchangeably.
Work with District Capital for your personal financial planning needs
Are you in your 30s or 40s, and you want to retire by 55? Do you work in tech and want to maximize your RSU and ESPP package? Are you a DC government employee who is saving $1,500 a month and wants to maximize that money? Maybe you have a newborn child, and want to start saving for their college, while also being able to renovate your kitchen?
District Capital is one of the fastest-growing local fee-only financial planning firms in Washington, DC. We can help you reach your life goals and be smarter with your money. You can receive top-notch advice from our diverse team of experts, all with well-recognized designations and well-versed in your financial situation. We will meet you where you are.
Schedule a free discovery consultationwith one of our fee-only financial planners.
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I am Alvin Carlos, the managing partner of District Capital Management, a fee-only financial planning firm based in Washington, DC. With over a decade of experience, I have been dedicated to helping professionals in their 30s and 40s take control of their finances. As a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), my goal is to provide top-tier financial guidance with a focus on transparency and client well-being.
Now, let's delve into the concepts discussed in the article about finding the best financial planners in Washington, DC:
Criteria for Selection:
- The article emphasizes the importance of choosing fee-only financial planners who act as fiduciaries, ensuring they work in the client's best interest.
- Two key organizations, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and XY Planning Network, are highlighted as sources for finding fee-only financial planners.
- The CFP® designation is highlighted as a crucial criterion for inclusion in the list of best financial planners. This designation signifies extensive training and experience.
- The article lists four additional criteria for selecting the best financial planners, including having a website, publishing at least one blog post in 2023, serving young/mid-career professionals, and having at least 3 years of experience.
- Bonus points are awarded for financial planners with additional designations such as CFA, AFC®, or ChFC®, indicating specialized expertise. The article also values diversity, giving consideration to BIPOC-aware firms.
Exclusion of AUM Amount:
- Unlike other rankings, the article purposely excludes the amount of assets under management (AUM), focusing on the quality of service rather than the size of the firm.
Top 10 Financial Planners in DC - 2024:
- The article presents a list of the top 10 financial planners in Washington, DC for 2024, including their respective minimum fees for individuals and couples, fee structures, and a brief description of each firm.
District Capital's Unique Features:
- District Capital Management is introduced as one of the top 10 firms, highlighting its unique features such as a strong investment team with CFA charterholders, a modern and dynamic platform, and being a majority-minority firm.
Comparison with Other Rankings:
- The article compares its ranking methodology with three other popular lists in the DC area: Washingtonian's, SmartAsset's, and Yelp's. It points out limitations and differences, emphasizing its focus on fiduciary, fee-only planners.
Cost of Financial Planners in DC:
- The article provides insights into the cost of fee-only financial planners in the DC area, ranging from $2,400 to $45,000 per year. It notes the industry's fragmentation and highlights the fee schedule of the top 10 financial planners.
Finding a Good Local Financial Advisor:
- Recommendations for finding a trustworthy financial planner include organizations like NAPFA, XY Planning Network, and CFP Board. The importance of researching advisor websites, reading blogs, and asking specific questions during a discovery call is emphasized.
Difference Between Financial Planner and Financial Advisor:
- The article clarifies that the terms financial planner and financial advisor are often used interchangeably, with both professionals helping individuals and families make informed financial decisions. The distinction is less significant in practice.
Conclusion and Call to Action:
- The conclusion reiterates District Capital's commitment to helping individuals reach their financial goals and encourages readers to schedule a free discovery consultation.
In summary, the article provides a comprehensive guide for individuals seeking financial planners in the DC area, offering detailed criteria, rankings, and insights into the industry.